Solar energy is radiant heat and light from the sun.
Solar thermal is a system that converts sunlight into heat. From this, the heat is typically used for a variety of applications. There are low and medium temperature collectors that use flat plates; the low temperature plates are typically used to heat things such as a swimming pool and the medium temperature plates could be used to create hot water for residential or commercial applications. On the other side of the spectrum, high temperature collectors use mirrors or lenses to concentrate the sunlight to produce electric power. An example of this use could be using the concentrated sunlight to heat a liquid that creates steam, which could then turn a turbine to generate the desired electricity.
Solar photovoltaics (PV) is the use of solar panels to absorb the sun's energy and convert it to usable electricity.
A typical grid-tied system first uses solar panels, which contain photovoltaics (PV) cells to convert energy from the sun into electricity. The electricity is run through an inverter that converts it to an alternating current, which travels into the distribution system and/or your home/business.
Your power needs, space availability and mounting location ultimately will determine the best type of panels you will need, but the most common types are Monocrystalline, Polycrystalline and Amorphous. Monocrystalline is the most efficient, using a large individual silicon crystal, but is also the most expensive. Instead of using just one large crystal, the less expensive Polycrystalline panels use smaller multiple crystals and covers more surface area. Amorphous panels don't use crystals but instead use a silicon film that is thinly spread over large plates.
To maximize output, your solar panels should be cleaned regularly to remove any dirt, grime or debris that may collect over time. A certified installer can provide you with specific details regarding scheduled inspections that include checking connections, fuses and frame damage.
|Size Range||Construction for Roof Installment ($/watt)||Construction for Ground Installment ($/watt)|
|10 kilowatts (kW) and lower||6.0 - 8.0||n/a|
|10 kW-50 kilowatts (kW)||6.0 - 8.0||n/a|
|100 - 300 kilowatts (kW)||4.0 - 8.0||8.0 - 10.0|
|500 kilowatts (kW)||4.0 - 8.0||6.0 - 8.0|
|1 megawatt (MW)||4.0 - 8.0||5.0 - 6.0|
|2 - 6 megawatts (MW)||n/a||4.50 - 5.50|
|6 - 10 megawatts (MW)||n/a||4.0 - 5.0|
|10 - 20 megawatts (MW)||n/a||4.0 - 5.0|
|20 or more megawatts (MW)||n/a||4.0 - 5.0|
Notes regarding the above estimates:
- These estimations were provided by SunEdison and are not a representation of SunEdison pricing. This is "industry average pricing."
- Pricing fluctuates in the solar industry per month, quarter and year so these numbers are subject to change.
- Roof installations are dependent on the value, shape and efficiency that a solar array could create on that particular roof.
- Ground installations are dependent on the value, shape, and quality of the ground on which they were built.
In addition to your solar panels and mounting hardware, an inverter will be needed to convert the DC (direct current) generated power into AC (alternating current) so it can be used in your home. Additional components will be needed for grid-tied systems and depending on system design.
Since solar panels work at optimum capacity when in direct sunlight, they should be installed in a location that captures the most sunlight. A certified installer can best determine in which direction your panels should face. Typically, the panels should face north in the southern hemisphere and south in the northern hemisphere.
The amount of sun in your area can be determined by going to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's map of Photovoltaic Solar Resource of the United States
Your electrical system will need to draw power from another source when there is no sunlight. The most common and affordable way is to tie into the utility grid where you will use power generated from your utility during times when there is no sunlight. Another option is to make use of a back-up generator.
Renewable projects produce two products: 1) Energy (kWh) and 2) environmental attributes (EAs). The EAs include the Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) as well as any applicable carbon credits, or other benefits identified in the future. These two products can be separated in some instances.
Retail net metering allows an individual or business to self-supply a portion of their energy needs from on-site generation. In some cases, and as per your state's retail net metering laws, if all of the energy being produced at your home or business will not be used onsite, it can then flow back onto the grid rather than being wasted. The excess power can then count as a credit towards your energy bill. The value of each credit will be determined by your local electric utility. In some cases a meter will be installed to measure the flow of energy in each direction.
It is suggested to contact your local electric utility to discuss what equipment they require. To find the contact information for your local electric co-op, visit Tri-State's online Member Directory.
One option is to install a disconnect switch, so, if an outage were to occur your solar panels could still supply your home with the electricity they are generating. Without this switch, the solar system in question will be shut off. The switch is also necessary to maintain the safety of linemen working on the outage. Another option is to make use of a back-up generator on site. Make sure you discuss this with your utility or an installer.
Interconnection is the process of connecting your solar PV system to the electric utility grid in order to get power during times when your solar generator is not providing enough power to meet your energy demands. To connect to the grid, typically at the point of service, some additional components will be needed including a DC (direct current) to AC (alternating current) power inverter, disconnect switches, distribution panels and a meter. Your installer will be able to determine how these components will be integrated into your system design. And it is always best to contact your local power provider when considering the installation of solar for your home.
To check if there are any rebates or incentives that you may qualify for, visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) . Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, DSIRE is a comprehensive source of information on state, local, utility and federal incentives and policies that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Typically, solar system dealers and installers will be aware of the necessary governments and entities that will be involved. You also will need to contact your local electric utility regarding the installation of your system. To find the contact information for your local electric co-op, visit Tri-State's online Member Directory.
Although solar panels are built to withstand some severe weather, damage can sometimes result from hail, snow storms, lightning, strong winds or even theft. Many insurance providers will cover your panels for these types of damages, but it is advisable to discuss your particular coverage with your agent.
A solar PV system that is connected to the grid is usually less expensive and more reliable than a system backed up by batteries. Batteries can provide short term power during an outage but require additional maintenance and will eventually need to be replaced.
Your installer should be aware of most of the permits required for a residential solar generator but it is a good idea to look over your local zoning ordinances, building codes and state laws.
Many factors have to be considered when calculating payback time. The initial cost of purchasing and installing the PV will greatly depend on the size and type of system. You will need to calculate your home's energy requirements and estimate electricity prices during the life of your system. There are many online sources that calculate an estimated paypack time, but it is best to discuss your individual PV system costs and payback times with your installer or dealer.
If you are connecting to the electric utility grid you will need to sign an interconnection agreement with your local utility. The agreement specifies terms and conditions of your system being connected to the grid, as well as connection specifications and permits required. Some homeowners' associations (HOAs) may also have covenants for installing a solar PV system.
Please visit Tri-State's Renewable Energy page for the latest solar projects.
As a wholesale power supplier, Tri-State does not serve retail consumers and therefore does not have programs in place to directly assist individuals with the up-front cost of a solar installation. However, through its renewable energy program, Tri-State enables and offers incentives to its member co-ops to develop local renewable resources. You will need to contact your local electric co-op to learn how those programs can be applied to your project.